Bus service helping in militant surrenders: Indian army officer
6 August 2007
The Daily Times
New Delhi: The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service is proving useful to the Indian army and other security agencies in negotiating surrenders of Kashmiri militants living in AJK or other parts of Pakistan. An Indian army officer in Srinagar said that since the bus started plying in April 2005, they have persuaded 200 militants to return to the Indian side to live normal lives. For the past one year, authorities have facilitated the issuance of travel documents to a number of people to board the cross-LoC bus, with the mission being to persuade youth in alleged AJK militant camps and other places to surrender to the Indian Army, sources added. The issue of surrenders of militants at the LoC has led to a cold war between the Indian army and the Jammu and Kashmir government, which is backed by other agencies. While the state government has called for a halt to such surrenders and even asked for the repatriation of the wives of some of the surrendered militants who returned with their families, an army official in Srinagar on Monday vowed to continue with the policy. We will continue to facilitate the surrender of militants. We have no directions from the central government as yet to stop such surrenders, said the army official. Army officials rubbished state government allegations that in the race to steal the limelight, they were not scrutinising the youths. Our intelligence network is ensuring that there are no fake surrenders. Surrenders are allowed only if we have related information about them. Police officers in Srinagar, however, believe that the armys attitude flaunts the basic requirements of a surrender policy. The process needs extensive verification and an elaborate process of compensation also needs to be put in place before calling for surrenders, said a senior police officer. According to surrender rules Rs 200,000 has to be deposited in the bank after three years for every person who surrenders, once the police district superintendent issues a character certificate. A further Rs 2,000 also has to be released every month as remuneration. The Indian army has designated Uri, Nowgam, Keran and Tangdhar as the main points for permitting youths to surrender. Uri tops the list because this area saw maximum relief work and meeting of people across the LoC after the earthquake. When some families from across the LoC crossed to this part, our officers made an effort to establish contact with the guests during their stay here, and the efforts proved successful. We were able to send a message of peace to the militants across the LoC, an army official said. Army officials disclosed that they are in touch with hundreds of families in Kashmir whose members allegedly crossed the LoC for arms training. They are asked to persuade their family members to return to lead a normal life. This is perfectly in tune with the central policy, an official said. Motivating them to surrender takes time, he said. The families and the militants need assurance that they will not be harmed. We take utmost care to cross this bridge. Every one needs safety and that is why it takes much time, the official said. Defence sources claim that large numbers of militants are ready to surrender and return. They are unhappy over the slow pace of dialogue and the crackdown by Pakistani authorities against jihadis, they add. They revealed that a special recruitment drive will soon be launched for the surrender of these militants. A defence official said militancy in the state was on the decline. According to the armys estimates, only around 700-800 militants are presently active in the entire Kashmir Valley. Out of the 800 militants, half this strength belongs to Hizbul Mujahideen, predominantly a Kashmiri militant group. The remaining 400 owe their allegiance to other groups like Lashkar, Jaish, Albadar and Harkat. However, some intelligence agencies have reported the presence of some 2,500-3,000 militants close to the LoC, he added. They may push into Kashmir in batches. We have increased the strength of soldiers along the LoC and have also increased surveillance in sensitive areas to prevent the other side from pushing the armed militants into Kashmir, he said.